The Handley Page Halifax was the second of the RAF’s four-engined heavy bombers to enter service (three months after the Stirling) in November 1940. Five months later, the type made its operational debut during an attack on Le Havre. Unlike its more famous bomber counterpart, the Lancaster, the Halifax appeared in numerous versions and sub-marks which precludes any in-depth coverage on this page. (For more information see the Bomber Command Diary). By the end of 1942, Halifaxes had joined Coastal Command on anti-submarine and weather reconnaissance flights.
Three versions of the Halifax, the Mark III, V and VII, all served with Transport Command on paratroop and glider-towing duties in fact the Halifax was the only aircraft used for towing the huge Hamilcar glider. This combination made its debut on operation in November 1942 when, during Operation Freshman, two Horsas were towed to insert teams of Royal Engineers who would then attempt to destroy a German heavy water plant in Norway. The raid was a disaster – both gliders crashed in bad weather and the survivors were captured and executed. More success was to be found in North Africa and airborne landings during the liberation of Europe and beyond.
A few aircraft also served with the Special Operation Executive (SOE) on special duty missions parachuting secret agents and arms into occupied Europe.
Manufacturers: Handley Page, Ltd.
Type: British long-range heavy bomber.
Engines: 4 Rolls-Royce Merlin of 1,145hp.
Speed: Mk. I - Maximum, 272mph.; cruising, 210mph. Mk. II - Maximum, 295mph cruising, 250mph.
Range: 3,000 miles.
Ceiling: 28,000 feet.
Armament: 10 machine-guns - 2 in nose, 4 in tail, 4 in dorsal power-operated gun turret, 2 amidships.
Dimensions: Span 99 ft., length 70 ft.
Construction: All-metal with flush riveted stressed skin covering. Distinguishing features: Mid-wing multi-engined monoplane with compound fail unit and retractable undercarriage. Four in-line engines. Has straight centre section and marked dihedral and taper to tips from inboard engines. Large H-shaped tail unit. Long nose, angular wings and square-cut tips. Box-shaped fuselage to tail unit set high, and fins and rudders mounted centrally and outboard of the tail-plane.
Summary of recognition features: H tail-plane; angular build; square-cut wing tips.
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